Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Using My Senses

Thanks to a friend's suggestion, that is gonna be the theme for today’s post. 

It began with seeing this photo. The sight of that silky, smooth ganache made me lusty for a slice. I had to make that tart. 
Which brings me to the next sense. While thankfully one can’t hear desserts, (Bake Me, Eat Me!), the word ‘tart’ when said aloud, whispers mischief, inappropriateness and decadence.
And so, I set about making this easy Chocolate Ganache Tart. The beauty of this dessert is it’s no fuss base. It’s simple to make and results in a crisp, buttery crust. It’s such a joy to firmly press the dough with one’s palms into a pie plate. I can still feel the warmth and softness of the dough in my hands. It was smooth and did not cling to the fingers as dough is sometimes likely to.

But the most sensual part has to be stirring a big bowl of molten dark chocolate, just like Vianne does in Chocolat. The aroma of that concoction as I add various ingredients to it is really the high point of my baking. The smell stays with me long after the dessert is gone. To amp up the flavor, I decided to add some ground cardamom after reading this

And that ruined the taste for me. The elaichi gave the dark chocolate a bitter, unpleasant edge. In order to salvage the taste and to add decorative value, I sprinkled some sliced almonds over it. Sadly, the tart was beyond repair. 
Yup, that gorgeous looking tart you see on my FB page does not live upto its impression. Yet, it’s a start and here’s hoping that I’ll be back soon to report on a chocolate tart that satisfies.

Notes: I used this recipe for the tart base. I have learnt that the elaichi should be added to the base and not to the chocolate. I found my ganache too rich and creamy for my liking. So, till I find and post my favourite ganache recipe, its Google Zindabad!.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Everything's Upside Down

So, according to the plan, I was supposed to bake an upside down cake. 
This was an attempt to move away from an exclusive use of chocolate to that of fruits, spices, etc. I am a novice in the area of fruits. They do not excite me much. This experiment further added to the disinterest.
As usual, I had to blog surf to get a recipe..(Someone please gift me a good bake book!) This recipe seemed perfect as I knew that plums and pears were in season. I also added some apples that I had at home. While making the cake itself was a novel experience, I was terribly disappointed by it. The brown sugar did not caramelize well, the fruits were undercooked, the cake batter was still too gooey to be done. The ' Clean Toothpick' moniker seemed to be mocking me.

The only redemption was the taste of the cake. Served in a lumpy mess, my family members quickly polished it off. I also discovered that butter melted with brown sugar in a fruity syrup tastes quite good!!

With this still left to check off my list, I shortlisted this recipe. I purchased all the ingredients. However, I had to leave the city at short notice. 
By now, my brother was tired of hearing me brag about my baking. So, he took it on himself to bake the Banana Upside Down Cake. More like humble pie for me, because it turned out to be superb!! I returned home to a slice of dense, moist chocolatey banana cake topped with perfectly caramelized bananas. The cinnamon added the right touch of flavour to it. So there you are coz 'Anybody can cook' :P  
I, of course, am too traumatized to think about upside down anything!!!

Je suis retourné

I have returned!
I was away on exam leave followed by a vacation where I was baking too much to pause and record it all down. But here I am now. And I am back with a plan. Yup, a plan for the next few posts which will decide the action in the kitchen. Of course whether I will stick to said plan is another matter altogether. 

But before I get into the future, I feel a quick update is required. I was on a self imposed baking ban till I finished my exams. This ended in the first week of May with a simple chocolate cake. Nothing fancy. What was exciting, though, was the Chocolate Chip Pound Cake I made for someone’s birthday. I am going to consider that my first proper (paid!) baking assignment. 

It’s obvious by now, that I go to the Purple Foodie site quite often. It makes up for all those snazzy baking books that I do not have. More relevant though is the Brownie craze that she sent me into. I began with the ‘Baked’ Brownies. I made these especially for my father who was coming home after a long break. And they were perfect! Just the way I wanted ‘em to be!! A thin crisp crust over a chocolately square made better the next day!  This really sent me on a baking high. I immediately followed this up with the 24 Carat Brownies. These, however brought me back to earth with the monumental failure that they were. 

Soon after, I had to stay away from home for a few days. When I returned, I had a lot to think about. I sought respite from all that emotion and thought in my kitchen. Yet my baking misadventures continued. I attempted the Chocolate Hazelnut Marbled Cake for my mother’s birthday. I followed most of the recipe to the T. Yet I messed up at the marbling stage. Hence, my darling mother had a cake that tasted like Nutella. Not that anybody complained about that! 

In the lull that followed, I tried, unsuccessfully, to make a Hot Chocolate that I really enjoyed. My only respite came in the form of this book. (More on that later!) 

I had read about Dulce De Leche a lot. So when my parents bought me a jar from Brazil, I decided to venture again into the kitchen. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe for Dulce De Leche Brownies. All my misery was washed away and I could bake once again! They were sinfully chocolately with dollops of the creamy DDL. This success led me to scour through his book again for recipes I could use. From there I attempted a Flourless Chocolate Cake for a friend with gluten allergy.

I finally discovered a recipe for Hot Chocolate that makes me understand all the fuss around it. I ventured into the unfamiliar cookie territory only to be surprised at how easy and satisfying they are! I learnt that coarsely chopped chocolate works just as well as normal chocolate chips. I also found that adding a pinch of cinnamon takes it to a new level altogether. A chocolate mint brownie I tried out was a bit of a flop as I didn’t get the After 8 mints that I needed.

All in all, I am very pleased with myself. The vacation was not a total waste of time. Hopefully, in the coming days I will be able to use and share all that I have learnt in the past few weeks. I look forward to executing most of my baking and blogging plan for the month.
I have returned and I hope I stay.